Saturday, April 20, 2013

VDOT Statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee finally meets

We recently attended the VDOT Statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee meeting held in Richmond on March 27 at VDOT offices. The committee was originally formed in 1989 as the Bicycle Advisory Committee. The committee has only met very sporadically in the past. It was last convened to work on the State Bicycle Policy in 2011.

Following are my minutes from the meeting. FABB does not have a member on the committee. In our role as WABA board member we represented Shane Farthing, WABA Executive Director.

VDOT Statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian
Advisory Committee Meeting

Richmond, March 27, 2013 10-2pm
Agenda - Committee Member List

John Bolecek will chair the committee. He plans to hold two BPAC meetings/year. Membership consists of statewide stakeholders. As an observation, there were no representatives from the retail or consulting sector.

Pedestrian Policy Plan - The Plan is being developed using internal and external working groups. HNTB is the consultant. It will be a companion to the Bicycle Policy Plan.

Beaches to Bluegrass Trail is a joint project with Department of Conservation & Recreation. It will be an off-road trail that parallels Virginia's southern border from the Virginia Beach area to the Blue Ridge. There was some discussion about the need for more on-road cross-state bike routes.

Planning Database - VDOT has implemented a pilot project in which local bike/ped plans in the Culpeper and Salem Districts are digitally compared with maintenance and paving overlays to help prioritize spending of the 2% shoulder funds. The goal is to implement this system in all districts to foster better cooperation between the VDOT Maintenance program and localities.

Recent Bicycle Improvements in Northern Virginia - Randy Dittberner of VDOT gave an overview of the Lawyers Road road diet project. He also discussed implementation of Bicycles May Use Full Lane signs and shared lane markings, mostly in Fairfax County. Randy was asked if a road diet is implemented, are maintenance funds reduced because regular travel lanes are reduced. No clear answer was provided. The topic will be investigated.

Randy noted that an RRFB (Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon) will soon be placed at Belmont Ridge and the W&OD Trail. There are currently 4 or 5 in place in Fairfax. RRFBs have been approved for experimental use throughout Virginia.

VA Supplement to the MUTCD - VDOT is revising an earlier version of their supplement to MUTCD. Comment period was Nov 1-27, 2012. The revised supplement is expected to be issued any day now. There will be more options for using shared lane markings. There will be more detailed guidance regarding where to place the shared lane markings in relationship to the curb and edge of the roadway.

Multimodal and Public Space Design Guidelines - This effort was mentioned several times when the discussion turned toward use of urban design standards and more innovative bicycle facilities such as those contained in the NACTO Bike Guide. The Multimodal Design Guidelines are being developed by DRPT with close coordination with VDOT and a large steering committee. "The target audience and purpose of the guidelines is to provide transit agencies, local governments, land use and transportation planners, as well as the private sector with a toolkit of planning approaches, policies, guidelines and implementation strategies to help create and transform communities into multi-modal, economically competitive and environmentally friendly areas that improve the overall quality of life for residents, visitors and businesses." The Draft Multimodal and Public Space Design Guidelines are available online.

Safe Routes to School - Rob Williams, VDOT Safe Routes to School coordinator, gave an overview of the program. Fairfax submitted an application for funding of a countywide SRTS coordinator position. VDOT is reviewing current non-infrastructure applications and will decide by early summer. Quick start grant application deadlines ($1,000) are April 18 and May 16.

Shoulder Paving Program - Robert Prezioso, VDOT, gave an update on the 2% of maintenance funds that are set aside for providing space for bicyclists on the shoulder. Maintenance staff are reluctant to use these funds since they limit the length of roadway that can be paved. Shoulder paving is often limited by the available right of way or by existence of ditches near the road which would require some construction, which is not part of the shoulder paving program. Statistics for the amount of money spent, and length of shoulder paved, were provided for almost all VDOT districts. The NoVa district maintenance office did not provide any data.

There was extensive discussion of the need for wider shoulders. Two foot shoulders provides very little room for cyclists. Some argued they prefer no shoulder to an inadequate shoulder. Others argued than any shoulder gives cyclists some room and is the basis for providing a wider shoulder later. It was noted that the 6' vinyl lane strip next to a two foot shoulder makes the shoulder almost useless.

Reta Busher, VDOT Chief of Planning and Programming, said that since the new federal transportation bill requires states to meet performance measures, there will be more pressure to use maintenance funds for the road and not the shoulder. It was pointed out that 68 Congressmen recently asking USDOT to create separate performance measures for bicycle and pedestrian safety in part to counter pressure to divert bike/ped funds based on the new motorized performance measures.

Goals for the BPAC - We split into several groups to develop specific goals for the BPAC. Each group reported their top 4 or 5 goals. The following are those presented by David Patten's group, which reported last and was a summary of some of the earlier topics mentioned:
  • Facilitate an annual state bike/ped conference 
  • Promote VDOT participation at the LAB Summit and in APBP activities. 
  • Increase the livability, sustainability, quality of life awareness within VDOT. (In response, the DRPT multimodal guidelines were mentioned again by VDOT staff) 
  • Implement urban design standards 
  • Provide a forum for discussion of ongoing technical concerns 
Notes and presentations from the meeting should be available in the near future.

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